Wednesday, April 8, 2009

10 Bad Driving Habits You Should Pick Up Now That Gas Is Cheap Again

Author: Nick
Category: Money

After several years of almost unexplainable rate hikes, one after another, the price of oil has finally settled to previous levels, and sub-two-dollar gasoline has returned. Of course, even as I type that sentence, I can hear the gas station attendants down the road getting out their reachy sticks and starting to hang up those number twos again. Indeed, thanks to factors like violence in the Middle East, the price of gas may very soon be on the rise.

Can we expect to be paying three or four dollars a gallon to fill up our cars again soon? Only time will tell, but I suspect that time is the only thing standing between us and a return to ridiculously high gas prices. The rise wasn’t so bad the first time around—people started driving smarter, combining trips, and helping to stretch their mileage as best as possible. But because everyone has gotten used to these gas-saving techniques, they’ve been reluctant to give them up. After all, carpooling and accelerating gently aren’t that hard to do, and they still save drivers money even when gas is only $1.80 a gallon.

But what will happen if and when gas spikes back up to $4.00 a gallon? If everyone is already doing all they can to conserve gas, there won’t be any room to scrimp and save once those historic highs return? That’s why, if you don’t want to feel completely hopeless later, you should return to the old ways of driving now. What do I mean by that? Well, starting immediately, you should re-incorporate the following into your daily driving habits:

  1. Jackrabbit starts. If you bought a new 30+ MPG car recently in response to rising fuel prices, you’re going to want to do your best to knock that down to under 20 MPG now so you can revel in the savings of 30 MPG again later. The best way to do this is to apply maximum acceleration from all starting positions whenever possible, so-called “jackrabbit starts.” You’ll burn through three times as much gas just to get to the next red light five seconds sooner!
  2. Speed limit inflation. It sounds much better than “speeding” (it sounds more legal and official too!), and it’ll help you shave precious pints off your gas gallon. You’ll see the best MPG drop when you do over 65 MPH on the highway… or in your favorite school zone!
  3. Carpools are for wusses. Even if you and your three next-door neighbors work in the same office building, insist on driving to work alone. In fact, consider tying the steering wheels of your two cars together and driving them both to work each day.
  4. Warm up your car in the morning. It’s 6:30am in the middle of a harsh winter, and you leave for work in 30 minutes. Run outside in your pajamas, start the car, and crank up the heat as high as possible. You’ll burn through a gallon or two of gas by 7am, and your ride to work will be at a balmy 115 degrees.
  5. Manual drivers—first gear is your friend. If you drive a stick, now’s a great time to pretend you don’t! Leave your car in first all the time and burn through gas 40% faster than your lame friends who insist on shifting into second and higher.
  6. Windows open, and lots of hood ornaments. Disrupt the efficiency of your car’s aerodynamic shape by always driving with the windows open. Tack on hood ornaments to every spare inch of your cars surface to increase wind resistance and lower your mileage even more!
  7. Store crap in the trunk. Cancel your paid storage space now and shove all that useless crap in the back of your car. You’ll not only save money now not having to pay for the storage space, but you’ll lose that money right away with the lower MPG that extra weight will give you.
  8. Take your car in for a misalignment. Find the dumbest mechanic in your town and ask him to align your wheels. Assuming your car still goes straight afterward, you’ll cut miles of your gallon in no time.
  9. Forget the milk. Whenever possible, leave one item off your grocery list so you have to go back to get it on a separate trip later. Double the pleasure, double the mileage!
  10. And for the hardcore gas guzzlers… travel in reverse whenever possible and watch your gas mileage hit rock bottom.

Then, once the price of gas jumps back up, you’ll be able to pull back on these bad driving habits and feel like you’re saving money. This way, while your friends and neighbors are contemplating trading in their cars for good walking shoes, you’ll be squeezing pennies off the gallon and riding the highway to savings all by yourself.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Is One Gasoline Brand Better Than Another?

Author: Nick
Category: Money

comic 60 - favorite gas

Like many bargain-hunting Americans, I can’t say that I’m particularly loyal to very many brands. I’ll buy Ragu spaghetti sauce if it’s on sale, Prego if it’s not, or just eat a tomato if they’re both too pricey. Heck, I don’t even favor one particular supermarket! I’m even less brand loyal when it comes to clothes, cars, and computers. But if you look back over my expenses over the last five years, there’s one name that’ll keep popping up every couple of weeks without fail. That name is Shell, as in multinational oil company Shell.

But here’s the weird part: I don’t even feel particularly loyal to Shell. Probably the only reason they still have a monopoly over my gasoline dollars is because my mom insisted on only using Shell gasoline as I was growing up. That, and after I got my first car, the three closest gas stations to home were all Shells. Now that I live in a different city from where I grew up, I still get my gas exclusively from Shell. And the other day, as I passed a nearby Texaco station that was selling Regular for 10 cents less than the Shell station at which I’d just refueled, I asked myself a startling question: Why am I still buying Shell gas?

After that, I considered the following facts about the Shell stations in my city:

  1. Shell gas is consistently a few cents more expensive than Exxon, Texaco, and the no-brand gas stations like Free State.
  2. The three closest Shell gas stations are actually a little bit out of my way now. The closest one to “my way” is generally the pricier of the three.
  3. The Shell gas stations are not as well maintained as those of the other brands. Frequently the windshield squeegee liquid is empty or really dirty at the Shells I frequent, and either the air or vacuums are out of order half the time.
  4. If I ran a gas station, I would call it “Cheap Ass Gas.” But that’s beside the point.

Perhaps another reason I still maintain my Shell “loyalty” is because I thought it was a superior gas back when I first purchased my MINI Cooper. That’s because many MINI drivers on the internet recommended Shell’s V-Power premium gas over other brands and grades. Now that I drive a Mazda3 that only needs Regular, do I still need to get that Regular from Shell?

After presenting myself with these questions, I did some research on gasoline brands to see if other folks had thoughts or scientific evidence as to which gasoline brand was the best. About five minutes into my research, I stopped being an idiot and remembered that all major gas brands share refineries and pipelines. So while Shell might be refining that oil, Exxon and Citgo may be the ones selling it. And in the next state over, the reverse may be true. When it comes to gasoline, gas is gas.

What may make a difference, however, are the additives that each brand adds to its fuel. You may have heard of Chevron and Texaco’s Techron additive. In fact, some people seem to swear by Techron. Others favor Shell’s additives, and still others can be found who prefer virtually every other brand of gasoline because it’s supposedly better for their vehicles. And while I couldn’t find any scientific studies to confirm my hypothesis, I found no general consensus that one brand of gasoline performed significantly better than others.

I did, however, find several brands referring to themselves as Top Tier Gasoline because they use more than the EPA minimum recommended amounts of detergents to help keep your engine clean. But again, I found no scientific proof that more detergent keeps your engine more cleaner.

The only real difference between gas formulas that I found is that, quite consistently, those which are 10-15% ethanol provide much worse gas mileage that those that are 100% Made in the Middle East or Perhaps the Gulf of Mexico gasoline. Unfortunately pretty much all of the fueling stations around here have switched to some blend of ethanol.

Will I keep using Shell gas after discovering all this? Possibly, though mostly out of habit. I may experiment with other brands to see if there is any noticeable difference in performance. Don’t worry, I know not to buy from Citgo since the only additives they put in their gas are communism and anti-American sentiments.

Monday, August 4, 2008

Gas (Lettering) Shortage Continues, But Relief is in Sight

Author: Nick
Category: Money

comic 47 - falling gas prices

As was first reported on Punny Money (yes, weeks before even the freaking New York Times picked up the story), a shortage is plaguing gas station owners around the country. Fortunately for people with cars, that shortage isn’t of gas or overpriced convenience store food, but of the number “4.”

As you are certainly familiar with by now, the plastic lettering on gas station price signs have been getting a lot of exercise lately—sometimes changing daily in response to imaginary high demand and signs of political flatulence in the Middle East. Due to the sudden run-up in gas prices, however, many refueling stations were woefully unprepared for the urgency with which they would need number “4” letters for their pricing signs. After all, it hasn’t even been a year since we last saw $2.xx gas.

This was all great fuel (hahaha) for a humorous fictional story on gas stations running out of number “4s” before running out of gas. Unfortunately the story has become a sad reality as lettering shortages really are striking gas stations nationwide. Wait, did I say sad? I meant hilarious!

Thankfully, relief is finally on the way for letter-poor service station operators as the President recently issued an executive order authorizing companies to drill for plastic lettering in panda bears and bald eagles.

As I mentioned earlier, the folks at the New York Times finally woke up long enough to report on this story that I first imagined back in April. April. Come on, guys. What’s next? The Iraq War really finished back in 2006, and you’re not gonna get around to reporting it until 2011? Sheesh.

Well, for up-to-the-minute news on everything that freaking matters, stay tuned to Punny Money. But if you want your news three months late and based in reality, then by all means—go read so-called professionally researched “news”papers… or as I like to call them, last-week’s-news-papers.

Monday, July 7, 2008

Five Incredibly Stupid Ways People Are Trying To Save Money on Gas

Author: Nick
Category: Money
Topics: ,

comic 42 - gus station

In case you hadn’t noticed in your X number of years on Earth, people are generally pretty dumb. Situations of alarm, such as skyrocketing gas prices, only tend to make matters worse. Case in point: people are reaching new heights of idiocy in a feeble attempt to combat rising fuel costs. Here are five superbly retarded things I have personally witnessed or overheard people saying they are doing to save money on gas.

  1. Riding on empty. Apparently if you wait until you’re just about out of gas (or worse—until after you’re out of gas), it makes gas less expensive somehow. A select few morons are even running out of fuel on purpose—just to get that free gallon of gas their automotive club or roadside assistance program provides to get them going again. True savings: -$100 or more for a tow truck, plus hours of lost time.
  2. Refilling more frequently. While not quite as asinine as running on empty, I know at least one person who preaches constantly running on full. His thinking: it doesn’t seem so bad when you’re buying $5 or $10 worth of gas every other day instead of buying $50 worth of gas once a week. True savings: With gas prices going up about a penny a day, you save… about a penny a day!
  3. Stealing it. Some experts are predicting that, once gas hits $5 a gallon, almost 90% of drivers will resort to stealing gas. And I’m not talking about simple gas-‘n’-gos either; expect to see lots more high speed chases on TV between police and stolen fuel tankers. True savings: Lots if you get away with it, which you won’t, because you’re too stupid to get away with anything bigger than swiping cans of green beans from Walmart.
  4. Buying merchandise that comes with “free” gas cards. Several stores have recently offered gas-related incentives for purchasing merchandise. For example, buy $100 worth of jeans, get a $20 gas card. If you didn’t actually need those $100 worth of jeans (or if you overpaid for them), then you just turned $4 a gallon gas into $20 a gallon gas. True savings: Hundreds of dollars worth of crap you don’t need.
  5. Replacing a $40,000 gas-guzzling SUV with a $40,000 sedan. Yay, you get 10 more miles per gallon! That $100 you save per month will definitely help with your new $800 a month car payment. Genius! True savings: Go try it and see for yourself, schmuck.

So if you have a friend or family member who’s been doing any or all of the above, don’t even bother telling them about things like conservation. Chances are they can’t even spell the word, much less practice it.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Gas Price Sign #4 Lettering Shortage Continues

Author: Nick
Category: Money
Topics: ,

There’s no denying it anymore. What I thought was a fictionalized story of gas stations running out of number fours for their price signs has turned into a horribly hilarious reality.

Reader Mike sends in this photo snapped at a Sam’s Club fueling station:

sams club gas price sign with handwritten four

Maybe if Sam’s took a lesson from its own stores and bought the fours in bulk, they wouldn’t have this problem.